« AnteriorContinuar »
of several kinds. They were animated in their course by the rapturous applauses of the countless multitudes that lined the stadium, and waited the issue of the contest with eager anxiety; and their success was instantly followed by reiterated and long continued plaudits; but these were only a prelude to the appointed rewards, which, though of little value in themselves, were accounted the highest honour to which a mortal could aspire. These consisted of different wreaths of wild olive, pine, parsley, or laurel, according to the different places where the games were celebrated. After the judges had passed sentence, a public herald proclaimed the name of the victor; one of the judges put the crown upon his head, and a branch of palm into his right hand, which he carried as a token of victorious courage and perseverance. As he might be victor more than once in the same games, and sometimes on the same day, he might also receive several crowns and palms. When the victor had received his reward, a herald, preceded by a trumpet, conducted him through the stadium, and proclaimed aloud his name and country; while the delighted multitudes, at the sight of him, redoubled their acclamations and applauses.
The crown, in the Olympic games, was of wild olive; in the Pythian, of laurel; in the Isthmian or Corinthian, of pine tree; and in the Nemæan, of smallage or parsley. Now, most of these were evergreens; yet they would soon grow dry, and crumble into dust. Elsnor produces many passages, in which the contenders in these exercises are rallied by the Grecian wits, on account of the extraordinary pains they took for such triffing rewards; and Plato has a celebrated passage, which greatly resembles that
z Potter's Grecian Antiq. vol. i, p. 445, et seq.
of the apostle, but by no means equals it in force and beauty: "Now they do it, to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an uncorruptible." The Christian is called to fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold of eternal life; and to this he is more powerfully stimulated by considering that the ancient athlete took all their care and pains only for the sake of obtaining a garland of flowers, or a wreath of laurel, which quickly fades and perishes, possesses little intrinsic value, and only serves to nourish their pride and vanity, without imparting any solid advantage to themselves or others; but that which is placed in the view of the spiritual combatants, to animate their exertions, and reward their labours, is no less than a crown of glory which never decays; "a crown of infinite worth and duration; an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them."" More than conquerors through him that loved them, and washed from their sins in his own blood; they, too, carry palms in their right hands, the appropriate emblems of victory, hardly contested, and fairly won. "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands."b
But the victory sometimes remained doubtful, in consequence of which a number of competitors appeared before the judges, and claimed the prize; and sometimes a combatant, by dishonourable management, endeavoured to gain the victory. The candidates, who were rejected on such occasions by the judge of the games, as not having fairly merited the prize, were called by the Greeks adoxiμói, b Rev. vii, 9. e Æneid. lib. v, 1. 350.
a 1 Peter i, 4;
or disapproved, and which we render cast away, in a passage already quoted from Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be (adoxiμos) cast away," rejected by the Judge of all the earth, and disappointed of my expected crown.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF SCRIPTURE FROM THE MILITARY AFFAIRS OF THE ANCIENTS.
Patriarchal warfare.-In Israel every man, from twenty years old and upwards, by law, a soldier.-Chosen from the whole body of the people.Nearly the same forms used by the Greeks and Romans.-Armies extremely numerous.—Soldiers compose but a small part of Asiatic armies. -Training of the troops.—Alarm of war given by the voice of a herald, or by raising a standard.-Division of the Roman armies.-Division of the Hebrew armies.-Served without pay.-Foreigners admitted to serve. -At first all footmen.-Eastern cavalry.-Furniture of the war-horses. -Bells of the horses.-Chariots of war.-Armour.-Defensive armour.— Offensive armour.—Armour-bearer.—Engines.—The Cherethites and Pelethites.-Officers of the army.-Stratagems of war.-Ambassadors sent to the state that had given offence, before the commencement of hostilities. -Solemn devotions performed before they took the field.—Public sacrifices.-Hebrew camp.-Standards of the tribes.-Standard-bearer.
THE ancient Hebrews, like the nations around them, were wholly unacquainted with the refinements of modern warfare. From the age of Abraham, the renowned father of their tribes, they had little other business to employ their
leisure hours, but feeding their flocks and herds, or tilling a few acres of land in the districts which they visited, except in Egypt, where their severe bondage was still more unfavourable to the cultivation of military habits. In such circumstances, the defence of their flocks and their herds from the violence of roving hordes, which occasionally scoured the county in quest of spoil, generally produced the only wars in which they engaged. The rapid history of the patriarchs records a sufficient number of incidents, to shew, that how rude and unpolished soever they may be deemed, they were by no means deficient in personal courage; and in the expedition of Abraham against the confederate kings, we can discern the rudiments of that military conduct, which has so often since his time, filled the world with admiration or dismay. It will be readily admitted, that when the chosen people went up out of Egypt, where they had been long and cruelly oppressed, and in consequence of their miseries, had contracted the abject and cowardly dispositions of the slave, they were quite incapable of warlike enterprises; but when their minds recovered the vigour and elevation which the freedom and hardships of the wilderness inspired, they discovered on many trying occasions, a boldness and resolution which were never surpassed by any of their antagonists. Till the reign of David, the armies of Israel were no better than a raw and undisciplined militia; and the simplicity of their behaviour sufficiently appears from the story of Goliath, who defied all the warriors that fought under the banners of Saul; and with a haughty look, and a few arrogant words, struck them with so great a terror that they fled before him. But the troops of the surrounding kingdoms were neither more courageous nor
more skilful in the use of arms, which is evident from the history of David's captains, the first of whom engaged single handed, three hundred men, and slew them at one time. And this is not the only instance of such daring and successful valour; he was one of three warriors who defended a plot of barley, after the people had fled, against the whole force of the Philistines, whom they routed with prodigious slaughter, after a desperate conflict. Nor is the sacred historian justly chargeable with transgressing the rules of probability in such relations, which, however strange and incredible they may appear to us, exactly ac corded with the manners of the times in which he wrote. Homer often introduces Achilles, Hector, and other heroes engaging, and by the valour of their own arm putting to flight, whole squadrons of their enemies. Such feats are by no means uncommon in the history of rude and unpolished nations, who, in the revolution of a few ages, became not less celebrated for their steady and disciplined heroism in the field, than for the sagacity of their measures in the cabinet. Under the banners of David, a prince of a truly heroic mind, the tribes of Israel often put to flight vast numbers of their enemies, and became a terror to all the circumjacent kingdoms.
Every man in Israel, from twenty years old and upwards, was by law a soldier, the priests and Levites not excepted. Benaiah the priest, son of Jehoiada, was one of the most renowned captains in the armies of David, and commander in chief of Solomon's troops, in the room of Joab. The armies of Israel were in fact a body of militia: and like the same kind of troops in some other countries, they were ready to assemble at the first notice. a 1 Chron. xi, 14.